Twin defeats spark Democratic fears
By JONATHAN MARTIN & BEN SMITH & JAKE SHERMAN | 9/14/11 4:57 AM EDT
HOWARD BEACH, N.Y. â The Democratic Partyâs rare loss of a congressional seat in its urban heartland Tuesday, accompanied by a blowout defeat in a Nevada special election, marked the latest in a string of demoralizing setbacks that threatened to deepen the partyâs crisis of confidence and raise concerns about President Barack Obamaâs political fortunes.
In New York, Republican Bob Turner soundly defeated Democrat David Weprin in a House contest that â in the view of party leaders, at least â featured an anemic urban machine, distracted labor unions, and disloyal voters. In Nevada, a consequential state for the presidentâs re-election strategy, Democrats suffered a runaway loss rooted in a weak showing in Renoâs Washoe County, a key bellwether.
Even before the polls closed, the recriminations â something short of panic, and considerably more than mere grumbling â had begun. On a high-level campaign conference call Tuesday afternoon, Democratic donors and strategists commiserated over their disappointment in Obama. A source on the call described the mood as âawful.â
âPeople feel betrayed, disappointed, furious, disgusted, hopeless,â said the source.
Less expansive but equally telling were the remarks of House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, who in a conversation with reporters Tuesday morning said bluntly that Obama would take some blame for the two special election losses.
âI think every election reflects on the person in charge, but do I think it is an overall statement on the president alone? No,â said Hoyer. âDo I think it will be interpreted as being a statement on Obama? Thatâs probably correct.â
A senior Hill Democratic aide was more direct in attempting to explain the New York loss: âThe approval ratings for the guy at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue cratered.â
A Turner consultant, Steve Goldberg, validated that assessment: âIt was all Obama â not even a thought of anything else.â
The presidentâs feisty new jobs plan has probably preempted open revolt in his party â though a Bloomberg poll released Wednesday morning found that 51 percent of Americans donât believe it will help lower the unemployment rate. Senior party figures are on board with â or are at least resigned to â the White Houseâs leadership. And some Democratic insiders sought to put a better face on their diminished state - before adding that they wanted to see a tougher Obama.
âLetâs face it - it has been a tough summer for Democrats,â said Jack Quinn, a top lobbyist and former White House Counsel to President Clinton. âBut I really do think that people are feeling better.â
Quinn said, however, that Obama must confront the GOP.
âThey didnât get the House and say, âWe want half a loaf.â Theyâve said, âwe want the whole goddamn oven,ââ he argued. âItâs time for the president to really draw some hard lines here.â
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), among the most senior House Democrats, sketched out those lines.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0911/63466.html#ixzz1Xw6RHChC
Democrats are just burnt toast.